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What to wear to a conference

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MaudeStephany

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I'll be attending my first conference EVER this month... and I can't believe I'm asking this question:

What on earth do I wear to a conference?
Part of my challenge is that we are not well off financially. I do have some nice clothes (from when I worked in a woman's clothing boutique) but they are not horribly comfortable. And let's not talk about the shoes. ACK!  :ahh

I will be volunteering at the conference - so I need comfy clothes and shoes that will look okay... what do I do???

Maude  :broccoli
#1 - October 01, 2008, 08:01 AM

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I think you can dress comfortably as long as you look crisp.  A comfortable blouse, sweater, turtleneck, for example, but not a T-shirt or sweatshirt.  Simple skirt or slacks, even jeans if they are in really good condition, nicely tailored, not saggy-baggy, ripped, faded etc.  Comfortable walking shoes, Hush Puppies as an example.  Probably not sneakers or athletic shoes unless they are really tailored and fit into, say, a sweater-cordorouy slacks look.  If the conference is in a really warm location, nice flat comfortable sandals would be fine, but not flip-flops.  A light (indoor) jacket or cardigan sweater can give most any look a little polish. 

You're not a speaker, so no need to be "all dressed up" (unless there's some really formal dinner, I guess), but it is nice to have a crisp, polished appearance, I think, as you will be meeting editors and agents, but you do also want to be comfortable.  The days at conferences are usually long and full and busy.

Have fun!
#2 - October 01, 2008, 08:12 AM

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Yeah, you don't need to dress like you're going for a job interview. We writers are a comfortable bunch. A layered look on top is a good idea. You never know how warm or cold the room is going to be. Have fun!
#3 - October 01, 2008, 08:22 AM

I know the dilemma well. I work at home, so pretty much all I wear is jeans and tee shirts. When I went to the SCBWI conference in NYC a couple of years ago, the recommended attire was "business casual." Since I don't work in an office and wasn't even sure what that was, I polled my husband and friends. I don't have a lot of money either, so coming up with an appropriate wardrobe was a challenge. Here's what I suggest:

I always start with my shoes (you can't hear the lecture if your dogs are barking). Pick comfortable but nice looking, i.e., not sneakers. If the conference is for more than one day, pick a neutral color that will coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe.

Dark slacks--not jeans. I found a nice pair of black trousers at Target for under $20. I already had a pair of gray pants.

Short sleeved top-- I got 2 simple cotton pullover  tops at K Mart for $5 ea. Conferences tend to be overheated, so I suggest layers. Especially if you are volunteering--you might be moving around a lot.

Jacket or sweater. I lucked out and found a black blazer on clearance at KMart for $20. TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Steinmart and Pennys are also good places to look.

Some accessory to make the outfit pop, like a scarf, necklace or fun earrings.

So for $50 I looked good and felt great, even though I didn't shop at the finest stores.. And I've worn all the clothes I bought a lot since then, since they are wardrobe basics.

Hope that helps.

pj






#4 - October 01, 2008, 08:31 AM
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ErinS

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Well, I'm probably the wrong person to answer this, but I will anyway.

I have a fondness for funky skirts, unique jewelry and victorian lace-up boots. 

So, that's what I wear.  It's what I'm comfortable in. 

Blouses, blazers and slacks just don't work for me. 

I guess, my point is, figure out what YOU'RE comfortable in (of course, with in limits......jammies might be a bad idea!)  And then rock it.   :dancer

(I had a group of women approach me at the end of a five day conference and after saying how much they liked my skirt, one said, "Part of the fun is seeing what you'll wear everyday!"  ha!)



#5 - October 01, 2008, 09:02 AM

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I agree with Erin. After all, we're children's writers. We're supposed to be fun -- and professional. But I live in Denver. So what do I know?
Jean
#6 - October 01, 2008, 10:00 AM
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i dressed comfortable. in jeans and nice knit tops.
t-shirts really, but a bit fancier, from banana republic.
i dressed in jeans to meet with editors / agents as well.
bring a jacket and layer, as the air conditioning can get cold.

i wore flats, comfortable shoes.

it's not a fashion show. just don't be in sweats
or something? keep with your style but not super casual?

good luck and have fun!
#7 - October 01, 2008, 10:27 AM
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During the days at the LA SCBWI, I saw everything from jeans to slacks to shorts and capris.

I wore jeans and nice shirts and changed into slacks and nice shoes at night for dinners, etc.

Be comfortable and warm. That is my motto.
#8 - October 01, 2008, 10:37 AM
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You can look great without spending a fortune! I just got a pair of Etienne Aigner leather flats, really comfortable, for $25 at TJ Maxx! I hadn't bought a nice pair of shoes in a long time. I've been in mommy mode for so long, I just have sneaker-flats or flip-flops.

I've been known to shop in thrift stores. You will be amazed at what some people donate--brand new, high-end clothes!

If you're not a slacks person, a skirt or dark wash jeans work well. But a neutral pant in grey, brown, beige or black can go with anything and dress-up a simple T-shirt.

I agree to go with your own personal style without being too casual. Don't be stressed about it. The people you meet will remember your personality, not what you were wearing! (OK, unless you're Erin. I love funky skirts, too.)

 :goodluck
#9 - October 01, 2008, 10:49 AM

I've never been to a conference that wasn't freezing, so my one staple is always a light sweater, no matter how hot it is outside.
#10 - October 01, 2008, 10:53 AM
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SusanAdrian

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Maude:

You're going to Surrey, right?

Surrey is very casual. Many writers spend the whole weekend in jeans, maybe dressed up with a nice shirt instead of a t-shirt.

The only semi-fancy time is Saturday dinner, but even then you can wear whatever you like. And this year you can even wear a costume if you want!

Feel free to PM me about any other Surrey questions...I think this is my fifth or sixth year attending.  :yay

Susan
#11 - October 01, 2008, 10:54 AM

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As an attendee at the LA Conference and smaller regional events, I've dressed in jeans and comfortable tops and wore comfy shoes. As a volunteer, I suspect you'd want to dress on the "nice" side of casual since you might find yourself in a PR position part of the time.

What to wear: Nice (designer?) jeans or polished looking casual pants (tailored khaki or capris pants) could work. Comfortable, nice tops or blouses w/ a light jacket or sweater. Everyone's right about air conditioning. Stick to simple, no fuss.  Fun accessories (scarf, earrings, bracelets or nice pendant) can add some panache to your outfit. Classy casual doesn't have to be expensive yet it to make you feel like "a million bucks." Try out what you have at home. Maybe all you need are a couple tops and a pair of comfortable flats added to your wardrobe? If you aren't sure of mixing and matching things, ask a fashionable friend or two.

FWIW, a smile is always a good thing to wear--so don't forget to enjoy yourself! (And bring a camera!)  :yup
#12 - October 01, 2008, 10:56 AM
« Last Edit: October 03, 2008, 02:13 PM by ecm »
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Thanks for the tips, ladies!  I'm attending my first SCBWI conference next month and was wondering as well!
#13 - October 01, 2008, 11:26 AM
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Wear what you feel comfortable in and look as nice as you can afford (and if you can't afford new clothes/shoes, then just wear what you have). You're there to learn, have fun, and help out. The rest isn't that important. :)

<edited to add> I totally know how you feel - I obsess about what I'll wear when I go to conferences, even though I've been to them before! And I second or third bringing a sweater and/or jacket and dressing in layers. You never know what season the conference rooms are going to be.
#14 - October 01, 2008, 04:45 PM
« Last Edit: October 01, 2008, 04:48 PM by sruble »
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From my experience the best thing to have is a comfortable pair of shoes. The other thing I wish I had done is to bring along a snack - apple or cereal bar - as hotel lunches aren't always up to par, but that may just be me since I hate sandwiches made on white bread. It really depends on the hotel.  
#15 - October 02, 2008, 11:16 AM
« Last Edit: October 28, 2009, 02:32 PM by Anne with an E »
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I agree with everyone else --- crisp and casual. I've worked at many conferences and you're right, comfortable shoes are a top priority. Better even to have clean sneakers than to be dragging around in pain  :yippee.
#16 - October 02, 2008, 11:39 AM
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Here's my two-cents. I put on a pin or a hat or something that is a little different. Not to get me noticed per se, but as a ice breaker. At these conferences, especially longer ones, where we meet a lot of people it's nice to have a topic of conversation that is safe before jumping into writing. My pins are silly -- a cow in a bikini, a herd of frogs (six of them) ... so on. So the rest of me looks professional and the pin is whimsical but not so distracting as to be annoying. Otherwise, I'm wearing black jeans/black pants, and top with a black quilted vest -- the vest is also nice if it's cold.

I don't know if I just rationalized why I like to wear frogs. I just do.  :crazy

have fun.
amy

#17 - October 02, 2008, 11:51 AM
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The ice-breaker pin is nice for booksignings too, especially when there are several authors.  :)
#18 - October 02, 2008, 03:40 PM

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A couple of years ago, I sat across the aisle from a woman in ripped sweatpants and dirty suede slippers (real bedroom slippers, not the ones that can pass as shoes) with holes in the bottom. I know this because she sat with the holey soles pointed my way the entire time.

You'll do fine - have fun!
#19 - October 02, 2008, 09:49 PM
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ErinS

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CynJay.....oh MY! 

Hmmm.  Well, maybe some take the idea of being comfy just a wee bit too far?

LOL!
#20 - October 03, 2008, 08:41 AM

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I'm a very casual person, so I'm all about being comfortable. I am NOT a slacks and blazer kind of girl. I feel icky just typing those words. When I was at SiWC last year, I wore very simple clothes with a zip up hoodie overtop and didn't feel under dressed in anyway. The agent I met with even asked for a full, so there were no alarm bells there. No one really notices what you're wearing. Just be comfortable.

And if last year is any indication, lunches at SiWC are amazing! You will be well fed. There is also a little gift shop there where you can buy water and snacks, just in case.

I just wish I could go this year.  :faint Have fun!
#21 - October 03, 2008, 01:08 PM

I read this and thought "clothes" but then maybe I've been around my husband and his European family too much.

No, really, just casual, comfortable, and clean is fine.  If you're meeting with agents/editors one-on-one, I might "kick it up a notch" and wear a belt in my jeans and  no bedroom slippers and ripped up sweats - that's just crazy.
#22 - October 03, 2008, 01:18 PM

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A light (indoor) jacket or cardigan sweater can give most any look a little polish

I really agree with Ann, a nice, short jacket, and some comfortable but sylish shoes or boots can dress up a pair of jeans like no bodies business. I am a jeans person, freaked last year about what to wear to the Winter conference. Turns out a lot of people were wearing jeans (in nice condition, no frays or worn knees please:) with leather boots and a nice top of some kind. They looked perfectly respectable to me! I 'll be wearing jeans, brown leather shoes, a blouse and a short cordory jacket tomorrow to our Agents day. I am also one of the volunteers (I'm the  Illustrator Rep for our SCBWI eastern Canada Chapter) and that's that!:)
#23 - October 03, 2008, 01:20 PM
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I think I've worn jeans to every conference I've gone to as an attendee. Not icky jeans, but nice ones, and a normal shirt up top. As anyone who knows me can attest to, this is what I wear every day of my life. It feels weird to wear something else. For one conference I actually brought something nicer, then ended up in the more comfortable clothes I'd brought. Someone on this board--ecb!--laughed at me bc I couldn't stand to be fancy and went with the hoodie.

Now, I just got done with a conference where I was the planner and thus the point person for all the faculty. I felt compelled to look nice, but as I said to my partner-in-crime, Do I have to wear a skirt? 'Cuz I'm gonna go nuts if I have to wear a skirt all day. (Actually, I might have phrased this in a little more vulgar language.) She said, be comfortable. If it means jeans, wear jeans.

I did not wear jeans. I wore corduroys and a long-sleeved plain t-shirt. I thought I looked quite presentable. I did not hear anybody whispering about me. No one seemed to care. I think that, while you have to maintain some minimum standards, you shouldn't wear clothing that makes you feel uncomfortable--even if it's "nice." We are not business executives, for heaven's sake. I am much more myself in clothes that I'm not thinking about, and in the long run, you are trying to present your personality, not your wardrobe.
#24 - October 03, 2008, 01:23 PM

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And for those with hard-to-fit bods, see the thread AnnH started last summer about where to find great fitting jeans! http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=30113.0
#25 - October 03, 2008, 01:24 PM

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